After the main characters' flight to Las Vegas in Bridesmaids is diverted to Casper, Wyoming, so Annie can be taken off after her inflight antics, nothing else happens. In real life anyone taken off a plane this way is sent the bill for the diversion by the airline, whose landing fees and fuel costs will usually run into five figures. And given that Annie is seen being escorted by two police officers, she'd likely be facing federal charges of interfering with a flight crew as well.
1997's Con Air is probably one of the single most egregious cases of Hollywood Law ever devised.
Let's start with the circumstances of protagonist Cameron Poe:
He is sentenced to seven to ten years in prison for killing a drunk who was attacking Cameron and his then-pregnant wife, Tricia. It was clearly self-defense, which Cameron's wife could verify. In real life, he would probably not even have been charged (least of all in Alabama, where they take self-defense concepts very seriously).
Even if he was, he would not have been tried in federal court, or sent to a federal prison, as this was not in federal jurisdiction.
No judge in the U.S. has ever used a person's military training against them in cases like they did with Poe.
In addition, they would never be able to simply ignore a plea deal the way the movie shows. Doing so would be an excellent way to get the conviction overturned on appeal.
On a lesser note, they do not transport convicts this way in real correctional systems.
The movie shows us why. Diamond Dog's story about getting a book deal would be incredibly unlikely in America, due to the Son of Sam laws that some states have that keep convicted criminals from profiting off their crimes.
A prison housing some of the most twisted, violent, ruthless, and cunning criminal geniuses in the world would probably keep these types isolated from one another to prevent them devising this sort of scheme.
In Daredevil, the only scene of hero Matt Murdock actually acting as a lawyer that made it to the theatrical cut was of him seemingly seeking a conviction for a rape suspect. The catch? Matt is a defense attorney, a fact emphasized by the voluminous material that was cut from the movie. So while, in Real Life, you MAY see a victim's advocate making submissions at sentencing in many jurisdictions, there's no way in hell that Murdock would have been making arguments in court and getting annoyed that the defendant was acquitted. Matt could have been suing the guy in tort for the rape, but even in that case he still wouldn't be on the defense side of things. The comics' Daredevil is always a defense attorney—perhaps they didn't think that would be sympathetic enough?
Kevin Lomax in The Devil's Advocate is established as a Super Lawyer because he's "never lost a case". We're told that in his early career he worked in the local district attorney's office and had a string of 64 straight convictions, and he "didn't plead out often". This would actually indicate that he's a terrible prosecutor. First, prosecutors get to choose their cases, so he could have a string of "sure thing" prosecutions. Second, prosecuting these cases to trial would clog up the court's docket when he should be making plea bargains with the defendants. Odds are, the bulk of his victories would have been mundane cases where the defendant was guilty as hell and took a deal. It's worth noting that some real-life prosecutors trump themselves up by this claim, which usually comes from dropping or taking pleas on any case with a chance of failure.
Good Will Hunting gets a bunch of things wrong. In the opening, Will is arrested for assaulting a police officer. This is a very serious offense that he tries to get dismissed by saying it was "self-defense against tyranny". The judge acknowledges that Will defended himself on an earlier charge of Grand Theft Auto by quoting a two-hundred year old case on the grounds of "free property rights of horse and buggy". Most likely it would have either been reversed or ignored in favor of more recent law. Anyway, the judge denies the motion to dismiss and puts him in jail. The MIT professor says that he "talked to the judge" and got his permission to have Will work for him as a form of probation. The professor is not a lawyer and therefore has no right to "talk to" the judge on Will's behalf. The professor might have put up his bail to get Will released, but Will would still have to stand trial for the assault charge.
Starting with the first film: the fact that Murtaugh should never have been assigned to the Hunsaker case (which is the plot of the entire movie) because the victim was the daughter of a war buddy of his (The whole scene where Hunsacker starts yelling "You owe me! I want you to kill them!" in front of several witnesses would cast a great deal of doubt on whether the shootings of the villains was genuinely necessary or simply engineered to look that way by a cop who felt morally obliged to kill them anyway). In addition, the fact that Riggs had killed people in two separate officer involved shootings the day before being assigned as Murtaugh's partner, which, combined with the precinct psychologist's concerns over his mental health, should have gotten him put on administrative leave for the remainder of the year.
Perhaps most famous is the second film's insinuation that diplomatic immunity is a license to commit crimes with impunity. In reality, once the LAPD found out that the South African diplomats were running a drug ring, they could have just notified the State Department, who would have them deported. Since South Africa was a US ally, it's probable they would then be extradited, or potentially tried in their home country. There's certainly no way South Africa would've turned a blind eye to one of their diplomats ordering the assassination of police officers, as that could be construed as an act of war.
A Nightmare on Elm Street: Part of Freddy's backstory is that he was arrested and convicted of being a serial killer who targeted children, then was released because his arrest warrant was signed in the wrong place. In the TV spinoff's pilot, it was because he hadn't been read his rights. Two invocations of this trope for the price of one incident!
In Pacific Heights, Michael Keaton engages in various outrageous illegal acts against his landlords, who are thwarted from any recourse by a system of indifferent police, judges and attorneys, as well as Keaton using the Loophole. This movie was a nonstop sequence of Hollywood Law and later Vigilante Execution as the victims were driven to take the law into their own hands—which the police even stated would be the only real recourse.
The antagonists commit various crimes against the "Nerds," but are told by police that it's "out of their jurisdiction" since it's "college pranks" — even regarding outright crimes, including assault, battery, terrorism, and malicious destruction of property; in response, the Nerds commit other crimes against the jocks in "revenge". In reality, state laws do not recognize college campuses as sovereign boundaries or "no-man's lands;" however, here, even felonies were entirely subject to judgment by Hollywood Law.
Aside from the pranks, the football players burn down their own frat house and are encouraged to take over the freshman dorm, evicting the new students and throwing their belongings out the windows.
In the second sequel, the protagonists take their grievances to court, only for the judge to say to their faces "Nerds don't have rights". Um, yes, they do. How that judge managed to keep his job is a mystery. Doubtless it's Rule of Funny.
For a film based on real events, The Untouchables gets just about everything about Al Capone's trial dead wrong:
The judge orders the jury switched with a jury next door. No judge has the power to call in a jury that the parties didn't select. Also, the new jury was brought in after the key prosecution witness had testified. Any defense lawyer would love to have a jury that never saw the prosecution's evidence! The actual judge did switch the pool of available jurors when he saw evidence Capone bribed them, but that happened prior to the trial's start. In the movie's scenario he would have just declared a mistrial and they'd select uncorrupted jurors for a new trial.
Income tax evasion is a federal, not a state, crime. The Real Life case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office, not the Cook County District Attorney, and tried in United States Courthouse, not the Cook County Courthouse, by a federal judge.
Capones lawyer also enters a plea change without his clients request or consent. Apparently, the fact that Capone clearly does not want to plead guilty (via assaulting his lawyer) counts for nothing. In Real Life, a court cannot accept a plea that is not made with the defendant's consent; doing so would be thrown out on appeal. Likewise, any lawyer who tried to enter a plea without his client's consent would most likely be disbarred. A lawyer is essentially an intermediary; the defendant has the final say in his own defense. Capone was actually convicted by the jury, rather than having a plea deal (there was no offer of one anyway). But if you've ever seen it in real life or in a work which does this right, you'll have noticed that the judge asks the defendant if they agree to plead guilty and if they understand what that means.
The Untouchables were not the ones who pursued Capone for tax evasion. That job went to one Frank G. Wilson from the IRS, who spent his days poring over records to link undeclared revenue to Capone. The Untouchables themselves only were going after the bootlegging business to disrupt it.
In the first Wayne's World movie, one police officer is infamous for performing cavity searches on random motorists. This is a serious felony, when performed without a warrant; while the movie, as usual, attempts to justify this under Rule of Funny, it qualifies under the law as rape.
In Double Jeopardy, Ashley Judd is framed by her husband for his own murder and serves prison time. When she gets out, she hunts him down and brags that she could kill him and get away with it because she's already been convicted of that crime and double jeopardy means she can't be prosecuted for it again. Problem is, she was convicted of that crime (that is, of "murdering" him at that specific time and place). Hunting him down to another city and killing him there, then, would be another crime entirely, and thus she could be justly convicted of it (not to mention simultaneously clearing herself of the first murder). There's also the host of other crimes she committed, including burglary, theft, destruction of property, escape from custody, assault on a law enforcement officer, unlicensed possession of a firearm, transporting an unlicensed weapon across state lines, assault with intent to kill (all of them violating her parole, which would send her back to prison) and probably more, which could put her away for years themselves, perhaps even for the same time or longer than her original sentence. note At best, she'd get credit for time already served (though that wouldn't make for nearly as epic a title for a movie).
Lawyer Gordon Bombay is charged with DUI. His boss Ducksworth tells him that he has "talked to" the judge, who has agreed to "suspend the disposition of [Gordon's] case" and sentence Gordon to community service (coaching the titular pee-wee hockey team). It isn't at all clear what exactly the judge has agreed to—the judge can't impose a sentence unless the defendant has either pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial. Presumably Gordon pled guilty to this after Ducksworth told him of the deal and made it clear he expected Gordon to avoid embarrassing the firm with a public trial.
In an earlier scene, Gordon strikes a nerve with the judge by citing an appellate court case in which that same judge was overruled. But the case Gordon cites is called Minneapolis v. Higgins, which is an implausible name for a criminal case (in Minnesota, criminal prosecutions are always titled "State v. [Defendant's name]".) The only way this name would make sense is as a civil case in which the city of Minneapolis had been sued, lost, and then appealed—the trial case would have been Higgins v. Minneapolis (though it would be "City of Minneapolis"). It wouldn't be precedent in a criminal case, however.
The judge rules DNA evidence is inadmissible against the criminals who broke into Clyde Shelton's home and killed his family, later explained as one of the crime scene technicians having contaminated it. According to the DA, the "Exclusionary Principle" rules out most of the other valid evidence against them. The Exclusionary Rule would apply to evidence the police obtain in violation of the suspect's legal rights and any "fruit of the poisonous tree" (i.e. other evidence obtained as a result of what's been ruled as illegally obtained, not evidence that was compromised or mishandled after it was collected).
They should have been able to get both intruders convicted based on Clyde's testimony alone, even if the DNA evidence was contaminated. Ames seemed more likely to have rolled than Darby anyway, since he apparently didn't participate in the actual murders/rapes (though he would still be on the hook due to the Felony Murder rule) and appeared upset by them (though whoever rolls on their accomplice first often gets the deal). note It's likely this was to show that Darby is a Manipulative Bastard, who knew the legal system and did so to get himself a reduced sentence and let Ames be punished for his crimes. Of course, he had no way of knowing Shelton would come for revenge against him...
While the City and County of Philadelphia are consolidated, which therefore gives the Mayor powers ordinarily wielded by the commissioners of other Pennsylvania counties, the District Attorney's office is independent. DAs in Pennsylvania are elected county officials, and the Assistant District Attorneys like Nick are county employees. The mayor of Philadelphia has no authority to fire an ADA, or promote an ADA to the position of county District Attorney.
While several actions noted as bad would count as immoral, the fact that the movie takes place a couple years before it was filmed means that several of the actions shown were not actually illegal during the film's time frame, despite Bud Fox's fears of losing his license or worse. In fact, Gordon Gekko most likely didn't break the law at all, but Bud Fox definitely broke the law by disclosing confidential information from his client (Gekko) to a competitor (Wildman) and using that information to cost his client millions.
It's a bit of a stretch for this trope perhaps, but in the final shot Bud is shown walking up the courthouse steps in Lower Manhattan's Foley Square, presumably to his sentencing. However, he's walking up the steps of the New York County Supreme Court buildingi.e., state court, when the insider-trading charges he would be allocuting to within are strictly federal, and so he should have been walking up the steps of the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse next door.
Changing Lanes. Everything from leaving the scene of the accident to turning off credit accounts without cause by themselves would get a real lawyer disbarred, not to mention prosecuted. At the scene where two firm partners started colluding with Gavin to forge a signature on a document, any real lawyer will declare "You Fail Law Forever" and walk out, not just because they're breaking four different ethical rules, plus numerous laws, the senior partners are trying to cover up the mistakes of a junior associate...by breaking the rules themselves! Seriously, anybody who pens a movie about lawyers behaving badly could at least try to read the actual rules first.
In The Addams Family, Gomez challenges the (presumed fake) Fester's throwing his family out of the family estate and loses the case. While the court hearing is not seen apart from the verdict, the hearing is run by Gomez's neighbor, who rather obviously ruled against Gomez to get rid of him (being sick and tired of Gomez knocking golf balls through his windows), and in fact had been prepped to do so by Tully before the suit was filed. There is no way a judge with an easily provable association (positive or negative) with the plaintiff of a case would be allowed to judge that case in real life due to the massive amount of conflict of interest on hand. Even in the movie it's made clear that it only worked because Gomez insisted on representing himself and is entirely incompetent.
In the remake of Miracle on 34th Street, when the villains move to have Kris Kringle forcibly committed, the entire commitment hearing hangs on Kringle's attorney proving that his client is not mentally ill at all. While that may have been the case when the original film was made, a Supreme Court ruling in 1975 states clearly that whether or not Kringle was simply mentally ill would be irrelevant to such a proceeding. The question would be whether or not he was a danger to himself or others. If he wasn't, he could believe he was Superman or Captain Nemo or Sherlock Holmes and it wouldn't matter; they couldn't commit him without his consent. He could still be charged (or more likely sued) for assault though. This is brought up and subverted in the original; the staff psychiatrist attempts to have Kringle committed based on his belief that he's really Santa Claus, but a geriatrician who works with Kris explains that this belief doesn't make him a danger to himself or those around him, so there's no need for such action.
The entire case, in real life, would have ended in a mistrial the moment it came to light that #8 had bought the exact same type of knife as used in the murder specifically to use in the deliberations. His wandering around the defendant's neighborhood conducting his own investigation is also major juror misconduct. He could be charged should it come out.
In addition to considering evidence not introduced in court, the jurors outright disregard many of the witness testimonies that were introduced in court, for reasons that the prosecutor and defense attorney never actually brought up as possible issues (like the fact that one of the witnesses may or may not have been nearsighted). In Real Life, only a judge has the final say on whether or not statements in court can be considered credible, and jurors aren't supposed to disregard witness testimonies unless a judge instructs them to disregard them.
The judge (in the original film) does not say that capital punishment is mandatory in the case (as it was until 1963 in New York—the film came out in 1957), but that he would pass one if the jury delivered a guilty verdict. It wasn't up to him—he had no choice about it. The judge in the 1997 remake echoes the original line, stating that she will not consider pleas for leniency should the jury find the defendant guilty. However, nowadays the jurors decide what sentence the defendant should get too in capital cases after considering all the various aggravating vs. mitigating factors, following US Supreme Court rulings which struck down most of the capital punishment laws in the US. Without such a recommendation for death, the judge can't sentence the defendant to it. Given that change, this is nonsensical and legally meaningless (though it could mislead jurors, which thus might get any death sentence they passed overturned).
In the HBO movie Mistrial, a key witness, drug dealer Willy Sandoval, ends up not testifying against accused cop-killer Eddie Rios because he had agreed to testify in the first place because he had been arrested for drug possession, and had made a deal to avoid punishment in exchange for his testimony. Judge Friel, the presiding judge in Rios' trial, rules that Detective Donahue's search of Sandoval was illegal, and thus excludes the evidence against Sandoval, forcing the prosecutor to drop the case against Sandoval, meaning that Sandoval ends up not testifying against Rios. Where to start with this? First, Judge Friel would have had no jurisdiction over the Sandoval case, and therefore no authority to suppress evidence against Sandoval. Secondly, Rios and his attorney would have had no standing to move for the suppression of evidence against Sandoval. Thirdly, there would have been no case against Sandoval, precisely because of the deal he made for his testimony, and thus no reason or opportunity for Sandoval to move for the suppression of evidence against him.
Kimble commits many crimes along the way prior to his exoneration. In spite of being innocent of the original crime, he still might be going to prison for a long time over all of that. Then again, maybe not because of what's stated down below:
During the climax, the police officer in charge at the scene orders the sniper in the helicopter to kill Richard the moment he gets a clean shot. There are strict rules about when police officers are allowed to use lethal force, and those orders, given regardless of whether or not lethal force was necessary to subdue the fugitive at that time because of Kimble's status as an alleged killer, could be considered an order to commit murder. Especially since the shots fired ended up putting Gerard and the other Marshals on the ground trying to take Kimble in alive in fear for their lives. Then again, all of these instances would put forward the implications that, since the real killer was an ex-Chicago Police Department cop, the police deliberately tampered with the investigation and trial, and then had been trying to kill Kimble, all to cover up the crimes of their colleague whom they fully well knew was guilty, and to silence a witness to police corruption.
The trial itself had its own issues:
Helen Kimble's 911 call starts with her saying "There's somebody in my house", and her last words before dying, "Richard... he's trying to kill me...", is treated as the most damning piece of evidence against Kimble. Helen was calling to her husband and begging for help, not identifying him as the killer. Richard knows this. His lawyer should have been able to convince the jury of it, or at least instill reasonable doubt.note We are shown Kimble's lawyer is a friend of his ("My advice, as both your friend and legal counsel...") in a flashback, so it's possible Kimble picked a lawyer he trusted but who might not have been that good. Furthermore, another scene seems to show that Kimble tasked his lawyer with finding the "One Armed Man". It's possible that Kimble demanded his lawyer focus on that lead (hoping to at the same time catch the man who killed his wife), instead of the evidence and the lawyer complied with a strategy that was far less likely to lead to a successful defense because it's what his client, a close personal friend, demanded of him.
There's also the issue of how Kimble was either at the hospital or on his way home when his wife was attacked (the time she was attacked would have been calculated by the coroner), which could be confirmed by any of the surgeons with him or anyone who saw him on his way home. In other words, Kimble's alibi could have cleared him if the exact time of death could be confirmed.
Of course, there is DNA evidence against him from his skin under her fingernails, plus the financial motive (though that's thin since he was already rich, as Gerard points out).note A deleted scene in the original script has Kimble's lawyer talking of how "no one is buying this one-armed man story" and Kimble realizes even his lawyer thinks he did it and is making this all up. Thus, it can be argued the lawyer didn't do as much as he could as he thought Richard was guilty too and figured the case was too strong anyway.
The film implies that Aaron "gets away" with murder because of his insanity defense. In reality, he'd likely be committed and spend the rest of his life in a mental institution, with actually fewer legal rights than on death row or serving a life sentence.
Split Personality is actually not considered a valid insanity defense in most places. It's not even recognized as a mental illness by many psychiatrists (who know that patients can fake it, consciously or not).
Illinois law does allow someone to change their plea mid-trial, unlike what Martin says.
Also, the film neglects the fact that Aaron hasn't been acquitted at the end. Martin just agreed with the judge to retry it as a bench trial, where she would consider his insanity defense alone, without a jury. True, he can't reveal the movie's twist (that Aaron was faking it), but there's still no guarantee he'll actually get off, as the insanity defense only works in about one fourth of the cases where it's used. Even if he did, as stated above people acquitted on the ground of insanity usually wind up living out the rest of their life in a mental institution
Carl commits cold-blooded premeditated murder. He pleads temporary insanity (which is not a real defense—it's just insanity, temporary or not). The defense's closing argument does not mention insanity, but plays on the jury's emotions to convince them of justifiable homicide, after failing to prove insanity. And that's justthe biggest example. Of course, they are not actually trying to prove insanity, and it's privately acknowledged several times that he knew exactly what he was doing. What they're trying to do is go for jury nullification, which no respectable judge would allow. Of course, the jury can still ignore his instructions, and once they acquit, no one can overrule them. It's very unlikely a Real Life judge would let him go through with his speech. However, in the book it's a juror who does the "imagine she's white" talk, while in the jury room, thus getting the rest to acquit. This could be punishable if it came out—jurors take an oath to follow the judge's instructions to consider only the evidence presented, so this might be considered perjury. Admittedly, it's pretty rare to actually prosecute such a case.
The prosecution also made a significant error when it placed Deputy Hastings (who had been accidentally struck by one of the assailant's bullets) on the witness stand and invited him to speculate as to the possible motives of the man who'd attacked him. At this point the defense was handed a gift-wrapped opportunity to pontificate at length about their client's anger and motivations on redirect, in a manner the judge couldn't stop even if he wanted to.
In Beverly Hills Cop, there is a great deal of discussion of how they can legally search suspected drug trafficker Victor Maitland's warehouse, and whether it is possible to get around a need for a search warrant. At one point, Axel Foley tells Det. Rosewood that he can't come with Axel and Jenny into the warehouse, because Billy is a cop in Beverly Hills and therefore needs a search warrant, such that if Rosewood comes with them anything they find will be ruled inadmissible on the grounds of it being the fruit of an illegal search. The problems with this are twofold: first, any judge with a triple-digit IQ is going to hold that Axel was acting as an agent of the Beverly Hills police, and therefore apply the same standards to him as to Rosewood. Secondly, they don't need a warrant, because Jenny Summers, who is with them, is the manager of Maitland's legitimate business interests and has a key to the warehouse, which she uses to admit them; this would make the search consensual. If the police are admitted to a place, such as a warehouse, and given permission to search there by a person who has been given access to the place by the owner, as Jenny has, then the search is reasonable on its face. That is, Jenny has the authority to consent to the search, and a consensual search does not require a warrant or probable cause.
In Dream Lover, main character Ray is committed to a mental institution when his scheming wife Lana makes him look crazy. He gets revenge by luring Lana in to visit him and killing her, proclaiming that since she's had him declared insane, he isn't legally responsible. He states, "In a year, I'll be sane again, and they'll have to let me out." It would entirely up to the psychiatrists at the institution to determine whether or not he's actually "sane" and when to release him. They may not choose to make that decision for many years, if ever. He would also still be tried, and most insanity defenses don't succeed (there is a big difference between mental illness vs. legal insanity). Statistically, people acquitted by reason of insanity tend to spend more time institutionalize than they would have in prison too.
Fracture has Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) on trial for the attempted murder of his wife, who'd cheated on him. Due to various ploys, he has some of the prosecution's key evidence excluded and gets acquitted. Then, to make things worse, he decides to remove his wife from life support (who's in a coma since he shot her), as he's her next-of-kin. Young prosecutor Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling) gets a court order to stop him, but hospital security prevents him from entering the room, and his wife dies. Beachum then finds some new evidence, and looks up exceptions to double jeopardy with which to file a murder charge against Crawford. The movie closes with Crawford on trial again, this time with the expectation that he'll get found guilty and justice will be served. First of all: security guards likely would get in trouble for stopping a person waving a court order.note While the court order wouldn't have held up once Ted Crawford fought it in court, something the film admits, that's beside the point. Aside from that, the supposed exception to double jeopardy doesn't hold up. Attempted murder is a lesser included offence to murder, meaning it merges with the other. Thus, if you're acquitted of one, it applies to the other as well. Collateral estoppel also prevents a party from re-litigating the same facts that were decided on previously. The Volock Conspiracy blog discusses all this here, including the fact that there was a lot more evidence against Crawford than was excluded which he could have been convicted on to begin with.
It doesn't seem that Kirkland should be in danger of losing his license over telling the police his former client was probably the one forcing lit cherry bombs into people's mouths. Attorney-client privilege only applies to past crimes, and this was a crime the client fantasized about committing in the future. In that case, attorneys are actually required to notify the police of what their client plans.
Some of the evidence Kirkland digs up on Fleming should have been turned over to the prosecutor's office too. For instance, Fleming reveals to him that a supposed witness who says he saw another man leaving where his victim lived actually was paid to lie. Knowing that, he had an obligation not to put this witness on and report the planned crime, which would torpedo Fleming's case through a completely legal method, rather than killing his career by turning on Fleming during his opening argument. The photographic evidence which shows Fleming did know the victim previously could also be turned over.
Red Lights: It's quite unlikely Leonardo would get arrested when his act is exposed as fake, let alone imprisoned. The scene is obviously based on the debunking of faith healer Peter Popoff by James Randi, and not only was Popoff not prosecuted, his followers were outraged with Randi for exposing him (Popoff is still going strong to this day). In the same way, if the people hoodwinked were unwilling to press charges (very likely) he obviously wouldn't go to jail. These cases are notoriously hard to prosecute in Real Life, though Randi offers to testify for the prosecution if they do, and has done so before.
In True Believer (1989), James Woods plays Eddie Dodd, a former radical attorney who's sunken to defending drug dealers. He seems to defend them solely by arguing for jury nullification, citing the invasions of constitutional rights in the war on drugs, and saying they should find his client "not guilty" in protest. In reality, the prosecutor would immediately object when he started on anything except the evidence presented, and the judge would sustain. No respectable judge allows lawyers to argue for jury nullification in front of them. It's also somewhat unlikely his client would get a new trial due to just one eyewitness coming forward to say someone else committed the murder (and a less than credible one at that). It's forgotten as well that, although he didn't commit the murder he'd been sent to prison for, he did kill another inmate during a staged death match. It's mentioned the prosecution will make a deal for that if he pleads guilty to both crimes early on, but then that's dropped when he goes to trial on the original murder charge instead. He gets acquitted of that, but not for the prison killing. Presumably that charge was dropped too, but it's never made clear.
The judge then advises that families turn to the church, neglecting the idea that there are religions other than Christianity, much less the separation of church and state.
The judge also states that the man is an old friend, aka a clear conflict of interest that would never be allowed.
The child's father is also apparently not in the running for custody, although considering he was a rape victim and the movie avoids the usual double standard he may just have refused off-screen.
Discussed in Nancy Drew by an actor playing a detective on a TV series set in the 1950s (Bruce Willis in a cameo) who notes they have police in the show give Miranda warnings, which didn't come about until 1966.
An interesting aversion: When Harry notes that he was justified in shooting a man he was sure had intent to rape, and his superior reacts skeptically, Harry replies, "When a naked man is chasing a woman through an alley with a butcher knife and a hard-on, I figure he isn't out collecting for The Red Cross." This would be considered a legally justified shooting, under "Plain Sight", which says that if a cop sees a crime in the process of being committed right in front of him, he's allowed to engage the perpetrator, without a warrant. Said rule also is applicable to Harry's takedown of the bank robbery crew, which is why he's cleared of that so quickly. The mayor even notes that Harry's got a point.
Played painfully straight when it came to Scorpio getting released from prison. Basically the only thing that would be ruled inadmissible in real life would be his confession, due to the fact that he hadn't been read his rights and had given it under duress. Harry should have been able to charge him with assault, attempted murder and kidnapping of a police officer. Everything else was perfectly admissible.
His partner could also have laid charges as a witness; he was close by and saw the whole thing, and Scorpio shot at him, too. The very fact that Scorpio has a fresh knife wound exactly like the one Harry (legally) gave the guy in the balaclava and the same voice would be enough for a conviction.
Semi-justified with the rifle, a sporterised Japanese Arisaka (rechambered in Springfield .30-'06), which, as a war prize, could easily have no paperwork at all; however, he also has a full-auto MP40 submachine gun, possession of which would warrant additional felony charges.
In Scorpio's case, while exigent circumstances would certainly apply (someone's life was in imminent danger), his residency is Kezar Stadium, and it is under the consent of the groundskeeper. The trouble with this is the groundskeeper, though a designated property representative, probably does not have the legal standing to grant such permission, which therefore makes Scorpio a squatter and thus his rights are not protected. However, courts have held that even homeless people squatting in public parks have the constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures—the key is whether it can be considered their "house", even if they're squatting there, so that would probably mean a lengthy court battle.
Practical Magic: Without a search warrant, any evidence Gary collected would be deemed inadmissible in a court of law and thus could not be used against them. Not to mention that by repeatedly stealing Sally's mail, he is in fact committing a felony himself.
In Goodnight For Justice and its sequels, John Goodnight, a 19th century US circuit judge in Wyoming Territory is shown presiding over even murder trials without a jury, in blatant violation of the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution. It's possible for defendants to waive this right (usually when they think a judge would be more sympathetic than a jury) but very unlikely that so many people did.
The 1987 film Rampage (1987) portrays the case of an accused serial killer using the insanity defense fairly realistically until the end, when the jury finds him guilty. New evidence comes to light proving he has paranoid schizophrenia, causing delusions his blood was poisoned and that he needed to kill people for theirs. His defense attorney says (accurately) that it can be used as a mitigating factor when the jury decides if he should be sentenced to death or life without parole. But then the film ignores this, with the jury recommending that he be committed to a mental institution based on the new evidence, when their only legal options were death or life, having already rejected his insanity defense (Truth in Television: the insanity defense is successful only about 25% of the time, and is used in just 1% of cases. In some states it's also been abolished entirely). If they acquitted him by reason of insanity, then he would be committed (and, unlike the film's suggestion, most likely never be released). An appeal on the new evidence might be a possibility, but that's less dramatic (80's films apparently liked to show obviously guilty bad guys being freed on "technicalities", even when legally impossible).
In The Tortured, a young couple seeks revenge on their son's murderer, abducting him on the way to prison and taking him to a remote cabin where they torture him in a slow, agonizing manner. In a twist ending, it turns out that the prison transport was carrying two different prisoners, and they didn't abduct their son's murderer but the prisoner with him, whom they mistook because of the (unlikely) resemblance they had plus the facial injuries he suffered from the crash, while the murderer got away. This prisoner was only incarcerated for tax evasion and embezzlement, however, so he wouldn't be going to the same prison as a murderer sentenced to life without parole, meaning he shouldn't have been in a transport with one (they don't send prisoners convicted of tax evasion to the same prisons as murderers), negating the whole plot twist at the end.
In Doc Hollywood, the main character is taken to court for accidentally crashing into a fence on the property of a local judge, who tries the case personally. A judge cannot try a case in which he is the plaintiff or defendant, as that is an obvious conflict of interest.
Class Action. First, the eponymous lawsuit is not even a class action. A class action is when a group of similar plaintiffs combine their case as a class to sue particular defendants. The movie's case is actually a wrongful death suit brought by a single plaintiff whose wife died when her car caught on fire following a rear-end collision. It revolves around whether the defendant automaker knew the cars were defective. The problem is that automobiles are products, and product defect cases fall under strict liability. That means that the plaintiff does not have to prove that the defendant did anything wrong—they only have to prove that the cars were defective and that they were injured as a result. Furthermore, it would be trivially easy for them to prove that the cars were defective, since the cars did in fact burst into flames. The plaintiff would almost certainly prevail on a res ipsa loquitur (the thing speaks for itself) claim: the car burst into flames, ergo the car must have been defective. As such, on the facts presented in the film and not disputed by either side the plaintiff would almost certainly win on summary judgment, or even more likely the defendant would settle before the case got anywhere near trial. The finale too: Maggie unethically conspires with her father Jed to torpedo her client after discovering that her partners destroyed evidence, which could get her disbarred. However, this is something she could legally report to the judge (in fact, she is obligated) if her client wouldn't disclose the fact. The partners could themselves be disbarred and prosecuted for this. She didn't need to conspire at all.
The main character in Fatal Instinct makes his living by arresting criminals in his job as a police officer then getting them off in his job as a defense attorney. Defending criminals he arrested himself is a conflict of interest. Taken to an even more ludicrous extreme when he arrests, then defends his own wife for trying to kill him, which he does by illegally calling for jury nullification (the man she ended up killing was a former client of her husband's seeking revenge for a botched defense - which was the victim's own fault for strangling a bailiff during the trial - and he argued that she was in the right to follow him and shoot him to death instead of simply calling the cops). Fortunately, the film runs on Rule of Funny.
In The Chase (1994), Jack Hammond is convicted of bank robbery after evidence that would exculpate him is excluded on the grounds that it was improperly collected from the crime scene by the police. This is an obvious absurdity: first, improper actions by the police can only prejudice the prosecution, not the defense. Second, mere errors in collection of the evidence would not normally raise constitutional (or statutory issues) that would lead to exclusion of the evidence. That is, if the evidence (blood left by the actual thief at the scene of one of the robberies) had been contaminated, that would not be grounds for its exclusion even if brought by the prosecution, unless the contamination was total so the evidence had no probative value whatsoever. The other side would be able to challenge the evidence, and the jury would have to sort it out. And finally, the defense could still point to the fact that this evidence was improperly collected as having given enough reasonable doubt to acquit their client... and this could also be brought up at the actual Red-Nosed Robber's trial, were they to ever catch him. In other words, if the police screwed up that badly, they would have just jeopardized ever actually bringing the culprit to justice. In the scene where this is explained Josephson (Jack's lawyer) is clearly aware of how messed up this is and is using it as an example of how his client was railroaded through the courts. The prosecution's only piece of evidence seems to have been that Jack owns a clown outfit.
The film features a scene where, after Lau is captured, Harvey Dent decides to charge the entire mob (as in all the three big crime families in Gotham as a single entity) under RICO. The problem is local district attorneys cannot charge RICO offenses. Not even the local US Attorneys can; it has to come directly from the Department of Justice. Dent's mass-trial would also count, but the movie points out that he doesn't expect it to succeed and it's only proceeding because of his local stature.
Before that Lau flees to Hong Kong so that he's out of Harvey Dent's jurisdiction and the Chinese won't extradite him. Although it's a moot point since Batman's the one who captures him, Lau is sadly mistaken: Hong Kong has a completely separate legal system from the rest of China and it does have an extradition agreement with the United States. Mainland China will not extradite its own citizens (see Article 8(1) of Extradition Law of the People's Republic of China) but it will try its own citizens for overseas crimes, which can be a bad thing because China has the death penalty and some states don't.
Kramer vs. Kramer: The book Reel Justice notes that Ted's fear of Billy having to testify if he appeals is ridiculous, considering that an Appeals Court does not hear new evidence, and nobody testifies as a witness. Also, the "tender years" doctrine (that mothers are better parents than fathers of young children) was on the wane by the late 1970s, when the film came out, thus it's unlikely a judge would still make that the sole basis of his decision.
Witness for the Prosecution: Surely a barrister of Sir Wilfred's experience could have gotten Christine's testimony for the prosecution disallowed by arguing that since Leonard Vole did not know she was already married, that would make her his putative spouse and thus spousal privilege would still apply.
Galvin could have been sanctioned by the court for failing to communicate the settlement offer to the family, and could have additionally been held liable for malpractice. Courts have consistently held that lawyers have a duty to communicate all settlement offers to their clients before accepting or declining such offers. Galvin was not disciplined in this case, although he was confronted by his clients for not telling them about the offer of $210,000 that the Archdiocese had made.
The defense should have been able to win at the close of Galvin's case by making a motion for "judgment as a matter of law" (i.e. the judge ruling in their favor as no rational jury could find against them). However that doesn't happen.
Judge Hoyle incorrectly rules that Nurse Kaitlin Price's testimony is inadmissible hearsay, though it falls under the "admissions" exception. Topping it off, the "best evidence" rule (that when witnesses testify to the content of a document, it must be produced) gets utterly bungled. The document is a photocopy that Nurse Price brings in showing that she altered an admissions form at Towler's order to cover up his negligence. To explain, the form is a photocopy of the original, and the best evidence rule requires that the original document must be what's entered into evidence. The real problem is that the best evidence rule allows the exclusion of a copy of a writing; it does not bar a witness from testifying about what she wrote in the original document. Galvin does not even attempt to offer the document into evidence. Rather, he just asks the witness what she wrote in the document. Furthermore, there is an exception to the best evidence rule: when the original is unavailable owing to a bad act by the party against whom the copy would be offered. Here, the witness is claiming that she altered the original document under the threat of the defendant, but made a photocopy of the original before she did so. So in real life, the copy would almost certainly be admissible. As for the hearsay issue, while the admissions exception would apply to Towler's out-of-court statement to Price, the statement was not hearsay to begin with, because it was not being offered to prove the content of the statement; whether Dr. Towler would have actually had Nurse Price fired for refusing to alter the admissions form is completely irrelevant to Galvin's case. It is only hearsay when the out-of-court statement is offered as evidence for the truth of the statement.
Judge Hoyle, who was obviously in the defense's pocket, could have issued a judgment notwithstanding verdict nullifying the jury's decision, if only Concannon had asked for it.
And of course Galvin could have appealed and gotten a new trial based on the defense's misconduct in placing a mole in his office.
Presumed Innocent: It's unthinkable that the police wouldn't search for the murder weapon because "if they didn't find it that'd make Sabich appear innocent." Not finding it hurt the prosecution no matter what. Of course, this was necessary to the film's plot, since finding it earlier would have insured Sabich's conviction and prevented the twist ending. On that note, the dismissal of the case is unlikely, as there was plenty of evidence against Sabich remaining after one key piece was successfully discredited by his attorney with the implication that it was fabricated. Dismissing the case solely on this basis was suspicious, not only due to that but because Sabich's defense attorney had told the judge they knew he'd taken bribes. Sabich's attorney insists the judge didn't rule for them because of this, but it's left nebulous. The dismissal could get overturned if the prosecution appealed the ruling, and Sabich might be tried again on the same charges.
In Other People's Money, Kate never suggests to Jorgy some of the most common anti-takeover defenses, notably the poison pill or the crown jewel defense. The film was released in 1991, and is presumably set in the late eighties, except that by that time the takeover movement of the eighties was waning in no small part because of defenses like the poison pill. Any competent corporate attorney at that time would have suggested those defenses to her client, but Kate never does.
After Samantha Cole leaves Miranda's office following her introduction to Fletcher, Miranda tells Fletcher that Samantha's case is worth a lot of money to the firm, hinting that the firm is being paid a contingency fee since it's later revealed that a settlement offer has been made and refused, whereas if the firm were accepting a flat fee, the amount of Samantha's settlement would be irrelevant, and there would be no need to bring Fletcher in to replace the attorney who refused unethical behavior earlier in the movie. Attorneys are barred from accepting divorce cases on a contingency basis, unless it's a suit to recover past due alimony or child support.
Contracts with a minor are considered voidable, not void ab initio. A minor who enters into a contract can choose to void it, but if they turn 18, they only have a limited window in which to declare the intention to void the contract. This window is usually six months — for marriage in California, it's two years. Past this window, the contract is considered ratified — the basic assumption is that, being an adult now, she retroactively consents to the agreement — and must be executed. Given Samantha Cole's age at the time of the divorce hearing, both her marriage and the prenup should have been considered ratified. However, even if the marriage were valid but the prenup weren't, her husband clearly states that he "didn't know she was a minor!" At this point, he could probably get an annulment on the grounds of fraud, reverting Samantha to status quo ante matrimonium - i.e., legally in possession of none of his wealth.
One scene is premised on the idea that the judge can't stop Fletcher from badgering a witness because "it's his witness." A real-life judge would probably put a stop to that and give the lawyer a dressing down for it. Possibly the statement was simply a bewildered reaction to the fact that Fletcher was badgering the witness into giving evidence which would harm his own client's case. But then, long before the end, the judge should have stopped everything and said to Samantha, "Your lawyer is clearly nuts, so you'll have to get a new one and we'll start over."
Fletcher's secretary claims someone broke into her friend's house, fell and injured himself in her kitchen and sued her with the help of a lawyer like Fletcher. Fletcher then claims he could have gotten him more. Intruders illegally entering a dwelling cannot sue for injuries caused by breaking and entering, though the characterization of Fletcher being an Amoral Attorney could mean that he'd use lies and chicanery to confuse the actual scenario and managed to squeeze a settlement out of the defendant.
Samantha's husband's lawyer presents a tape recording to be used against her in court. Tape recordings are not admissible as evidence without foundation in a court of law, which isn't given even though the content of the tape is irrelevant in her case. Additionally, California's strong laws on electronic surveillance forbid this except by two-party consent (which obviously did not occur here). The private investigator might also be in trouble here for invasion of privacy.
Many courthouses do not allow cell phones at all. Even the ones that do, don't allow them in the courtroom.
Like most courtroom scenes, the film shows lawyers entering the "well" of the court (i.e. the area between counsel table and the judge's bench). They aren't allowed to do this without the judge's permission, and this doesn't happen except to have a sidebar with him. When questioning witnesses, they stand at the podium.
In the analysis of an actual lawyer (Part 2), while there are accurate moments (such as when Fletcher notes that suing the impound lot for scratching his car wouldn't be worth it), the fact that Fletcher used to defend criminals and accepts a divorce case is an unusual change, Fletcher could not yell "Settle!" before talking to his client first, and a throwaway line regarding filing would be enough for disbarment (respecting the court clerk's deadlines is Serious Business!).
General Ross decides that undergoing a government-funded medical procedure makes the person who did so the property of the government. This would probably be considered slavery under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
Ross justifies his hunt for Banner by declaring him to be responsible for the deaths and destruction caused by Hulk's initial rampages (something he might have a good case for). This provides a legal justification for tracking down and apprehending the fugitive doctor. Unfortunately, it also makes it blatantly illegal for Ross himself to be part of that manhunt. The Posse Comitatus Act severely restricts (and in most cases, outright prohibits) the use of military personnel in law enforcement roles. This would also make all the resources that Ross uses in the manhunt a criminal misappropriation of Army property and funds.
After finding evidence that Banner is in Brazil, Ross blatantly ignores the fact that they have had an extradition treaty with the US in place for over forty years and sends in commandos to retrieve him instead of going through the established channels to have Banner arrested and shipped home. This would cause a major international incident that could be considered an act of war. When General Ross reappears in Captain America: Civil War, he has somehow managed to become the United States Secretary of State, and his past crimes are never mentioned.
In the 2009 version of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Ryder makes Garber confess to taking the bribe. People around him speak as if that is an actual confession, but no one brings up that this confession was made under duress — Garber would have a very solid case in any court of law to have that particular confession thrown out as evidence because if he continued to deny the allegations a man would have died — which is far worse than taking a bribe.
The Wizard of Oz: Dorothy's family is ordered to get rid of Toto without any investigation or due process. Miss Gulch presents an order from the sheriff permitting her to take him to be put down, which is...not at all how it works. A judge could give orders along those lines, but a sheriff couldn't, and again, there would be an investigation. Also, Miss Gulch would not be the one taking the dog; the sheriff would.
In the Smokey and the Bandit movies, Sheriff Buford T. Justice seems to be under the wrongful impression that being in 'hot pursuit' means that he has the authority to pursue the Bandit wherever he goes. While that part of the hot pursuit doctrine does grant him the authority to chase Bandit over the county line (it was written so the police would not be hamstrung by red tape when dealing with criminals who immediately cross the border to another jurisdiction), it does not give him the authority to continue chasing him all the way across that county and into the next, and the next, and the next, ultimately resulting in a chase across multiple states. There is a point where Buford would be obligated to turn over the chase to people with either local jurisdiction for that region (the local sheriff) or simply a wider jurisdiction (state police or the FBI).
Though even that could cause some potential difficulties too, as at the beginning of the chase Buford didn't even have any proof that Bandit was doing anything illegal. Yes, Bandit was hauling several hundred cases of beer that was illegal to ship in bulk to that part of the country at the time (Coors was not licensed to do business in the southeastern US in the seventies, because they had yet to apply for said licenses), but Buford didn't know that. He was chasing the man for purely personal reasons. Making the entire pursuit illegal even within Buford's own jurisdiction.
Lampshaded in the film when the sheriff of a neighboring county reminds Justice he's out of his jurisdiction.
The low-budget sci-fi movie R.O.T.O.R. bungles law as badly as it bungles everything else. To pick just one example, the conflict begins because the protagonist's benefactor, Senator Douglas, wants to unveil a new law-enforcement robot and ride the publicity to win a presidential election in six months — or else he will have everyone associated with the project jailed for graft and corruption. Never mind that such a move would likely get the senator in trouble as well,note And raise the question why he'd need to secretly fund such a project to begin with. how would the senator become one of the major parties candidates for president just a few months before an election? And there is also the whole thing about the titular robotic project having a "hunt down and kill allcriminals, no matter how small the crime" programming—even with the most cynical of societal projections and an expectation of 25 years before it becomes factual, this fact is still a massive civil lawsuit waiting to happen the moment the robot is unveiled, not to mention possible criminal prosecutions.
John Q.: There is no way that John would only spend 2 years in prison for all his crimes in any reasonable court of law, whether or not his intentions were good. He's found not guilty of attempted murder and armed criminal action simply because there were no bullets in the gun, which would not hold up, because an empty gun is still considered a deadly weapon. The jury can ignore the evidence and acquit him, which is likely what happened here since he had lots of public sympathy, but that still doesn't explain getting only two years on multiple kidnapping charges. In many places kidnapping is punishable by up to a life sentence.
White House Down: The characters, particularly Carol, act as if invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment is some irrevocable order that essentially means they're writing the current president off as dead. In reality, this would only last as long as Sawyer was under duress, and his position would be his again as soon as the crisis was averted. Indeed, if they wanted to solve the situation, they shouldn't have made such a fuss over it and done it as soon as possible.
Persecuted: The film revolves around a bill called The Faith and Fairness Act, which will somehow force religious institutions to give all religions equal status (or something like that). The bill is hopelessly unconstitutional and would never get passed into law, or, assuming it somehow did, ever stand up in court.
In Carefree (1938), legal proceedings (or threats of them) exist to drive the romantic plot and bear very little reference to real-world practices. All legal matters seem to be handled on a personal basis, as Judge Travers is a friend of both Stephen and Amanda.
Superman Returns: Lex Luthor gets off when the appellate court calls Superman as a witness and he doesn't show. First, appellate courts don't call witnesses or take witness testimony, they only review prior court cases to make sure they followed proper legal procedure. Second, if the appellate court did find a defect in the original conviction, it would result in a new trial. Third, even if the appeals court granted a new trial and Superman was unavailable to testify, that would be grounds for his testimony from the original trial to be entered into evidence.
The prosecution would never be able to get to a jury with a murder charge. The victim, PFC Santiago, died after the two defendants tied him up and gagged him. The prosecution alleges that poison on the gag killed him, but they cannot prove that there was poison on the gag, and a doctor testifies that his cause of death could also be an undiagnosed heart condition, so the cause of death cannot be proven to be poison. Without the poison, they cannot prove intent to murder either, since it's not reasonable to assume that a healthy Marine would die from being bound and gagged. With no poison, there's no intent, and with no intent, there's no murder. The judge should have dismissed the murder charges at the end of the prosecution's case.
Related to that, there is Jo's infamous "I strenuously object" scene, which she justifies by saying that she got their objection to the doctor's testimony noted for the record. Objections spoken out loud during the trial are always noted for the record. Everything (with certain particular exceptions) said in the trial is supposed to be noted for the record; that's what the record is for.
Following up with Jo, she is such a hard-core Knight Templar that she absolutely refuses a plea bargain for the men she and Kaffee are defending (downgrading the charge of murder (which would get Downey and Dawson executed or serving time for life in a military stockade) to involuntary manslaughter (which would give them a much lesser time in jail and a dishonorable discharge)) and makes the case go to court in the hopes she will expose the misbehavior of the Marines at Guantanamo. Lawyers cannot refuse plea bargain options without first having discussed them with their defendants. Furthermore, their duty is to their clients, not to expose criminal wrongdoing by others.
At the end of the movie, Dawson and Downey are acquitted of the most serious charges, but convicted of "conduct unbecoming a Marine". This is a fictional charge that does not exist in real life. There's only "conduct unbecoming an officer" which doesn't apply as they're enlisted men. They could have been convicted under Article 93 of the Universal Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which prohibits a soldier from "cruelty toward, or oppression or maltreatment of, any person subject to his orders". However, that would not be referred to as "Conduct Unbecoming a Marine."
In Inside Man, NYPD Detective Keith Frazier is ordered to drop the investigation into the bank robbery on the grounds that "nothing was taken" = "no crime was committed"... ignoring the fact that the hostage taking and associated actions could result in any number of charges — and surely the hostages would like someone to pay for what they've been through. However, at the same time, it could just be that Frazier's higher-ups, plus the media, found bigger fish to fry, since the faked heist resulted in a member of New York City's high society being outed as a former Nazi collaborator. Considering the field day the media's probably having once they find out about Case's connections, they'd probably laud the robbery team as akin to Robin Hood. Plus without any visible leads and no one pressuring the NYPD to actually look more closely for the gunmen, there wouldn't be much push to keep the case open. As for the hostages, they won't forget what happened, but they probably are either thankful to have survived or just as amazed and confused as anybody about what really happened.
In Criminal Law, defense attorney Ben Chase becomes aware that his client Martin Thiel is a murderer and has reason to believe he will commit further murders. At this point he should go to the police, since attorney-client privilege doesn't cover planned crimes, nor ones the attorney discovers on his own without the client telling him. Of course, he doesn't do anything sensible like that, but tries to prove his client guilty while simultaneously defending him in court. This is an unbelievable violation of professional ethics which he could be disbarred over, along with him also being charged for not reporting the client's earlier crimes.
You cannot be sued for simply mentioning Jesus in a public school, especially if it's just responding to a student's question whether he taught nonviolence (public schools have comparative religion classes, you know). The case would have been dismissed, or a summary judgment entered for the teacher. Even if she were fired (which she could sue for) they couldn't take away her teaching certificate. Assuming the case somehow went to court, Jesus's existence would be legally irrelevant.
Students are allowed to pray in public schools. The law just prevents a government worker (aka a teacher) from leading it.
Practically everything that had to do with the court scenes. Examples are:
No experts brought forth on the other side of the case. Both J. Warner Wallace and Lee Strobel, not being historians, could have been challenged by the plaintiffs.
The lawyer's grandstanding has him state that if Christianity has to be held to the same standards as all other rights then it isn't a right at all. As a lawyer, how does he not know of the 1st Amendment?
The case is brought to trial much faster than it would be in real life (cases like this can take years to resolve) and there's no attempt at out-of-court settlement (which is how most end).
Rather than having Grace be sued for mentioning Jesus, she could sue them if fired over it. Additionally, in real life her union would not simply let her be fired, but file a grievance and dispute her dismissal by the school.
As a practical matter, it's especially unlikely to have this happen in Alabama, a very conservative state. In fact, the opposite would be much more likely, such as firing a teacher for denying the existence of Jesus.
In real life, this would more likely be a case of: 'This teacher employed by a secular, public school met with an underage child outside of class and religiously preached to said underage child without the parent(s)/guardian(s) knowledge and consent,' rather than: 'A teacher made a brief mention of a religious figure while answering a student's question in class.' And in real life, there are plenty of nice, rational Christians and non-Christians alike who would say, 'Yeah, parents should have a certain amount of control over what values and information their underage kid is exposed to, and employees of secular institutions who are entrusted to care for underage kids should be expected to respect this. This said, is there any way we can settle this without putting everyone through a court case and a young woman potentially losing her job and suffering damage to her reputation?' If this had happened with genuinely concerned parents rather the caricatures the film presented and provided Grace was willing to admit she'd non-maliciously committed a breach of impropriety but stress she hadn't actually harmed the student in any way or put her in a dangerous situation, the whole thing likely would have been resolved by one or two meetings between Grace, the parents, and possibly an agreed upon third party. At most, the kid would be switched to a different class and Grace might have a note made in her file. While it's possible she might refuse, at which point they might fire her and she'd sue them, there are no legal grounds on which to base her case. That would also be far less sympathetic to most.
It's said the plaintiffs don't want to sue the school, but only the teacher. However, all such cases rest on the fact that the school is a government institution. Teachers cannot be sued alone for violations of the Constitution. Further, this appears to be handled in state court, but it's a federal constitutional issue and thus would be in federal court. Also there is no jury when suing the government. There is reference to pleas and convictions, which do not apply in such cases as they aren't criminal.
Cases like this are concerned with seeking to overturn unconstitutional policies by government institutions. Since the school didn't support Grace and had fired her already for what allegedly was done, there is nothing to sue for.
Almost nothing in the case on either side is germane to the actual issue. It's immediately sidetracked to an argument on whether Jesus is a historical figurenote Whether he's divine is up for debate, but most historians agree that he, in fact, existed. and never gets back; in the end it's not entirely clear what the jury is supposed to be voting on.
Brooke, a minor, is called to the stand immediately after she bursts into the courtroom and loudly declares that Grace is innocent. In real life, her outburst would likely result in a mistrial.
In the HBO original movie The Enemy Within, a remake of the film Seven Days in May, the President, discussing with Col. Casey the coup that the military and members of the President's cabinet are plotting, says that the coup-plotters will have to do something to give the coup "the illusion of legality". They then realize that they plan to use Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which allows a majority of the cabinet to remove the President temporarily by sending a letter to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives saying that the President is unable to discharge the duties of his office; permanent removal requires a vote of two-thirds of Congress. It eventually comes out that the conspirators are banking on the fact that the President has become so unpopular that two-thirds of Congress will go along with his removal. The problem is that that's not the "illusion of legality", that's actual legality. That is, what the "coup plotters" in the movie are doing is perfectly legal. In point of fact, there is no reason whatsoever to involve the military. In the original film and in the novel on which it was based, both of which, incidentally, came out before the 25th Amendment was ratified, the military was planning a straight-up coup.
Suspect Zero: Mackelway retrieving a suspected serial killer illegally in Mexico would not result in him going free, unless he also somehow tainted evidence they needed to hold him (which isn't shown). In the 1800s the US Supreme Court ruled the manner of a suspect's delivery into custody was irrelevant regarding whether they could be tried. On the other hand, he might be disciplined or fired for this, and even charged with kidnapping by Mexican officials.
A small one occurs in Bridge of Spies. Attorney James Donovan informally discusses the sentencing of his client with the judge outside of court without the opposing prosecutor being present. This is called ex parte communication and is a serious breach of legal ethics, certainly unintentional given how much focus the movie gives on Donovan's refusal to compromise his integrity.
Lord of War: Interpol gets portrayed as something of an international FBI, with field agents who hunt down arms traffickers. This is not the case. Interpol serves as a network to coordinate the efforts of national police combating international crimes (including arms trafficking). It has no agents who can make arrests. Interpol primarily serves to put different national police agencies in contact with each other, maintain a criminal database and put out notices of wanted criminals. In any case, a US Army general would have no authority to have Interpol agents release an arms trafficker (which they would not be holding anyway). The same error crops up in Assassins, which had not only Interpol field agents conducting a sting, they also get compared with the CIA regarding their supposed influence.
Intolerable Cruelty: In America, if you were in your spouse's will before, but the two of you divorce later, the part of the will that left his/her property to you is automatically nullified. Also, one party's adultery is irrelevant, as divorce law is now no-fault in California and the rest of the US.
Office Space: While the events of the film would probably prevent Initech from being able to track Peter down internally, he still had his photo taken at the ATM. Given that none of the participants had the rank at Initech to open an account in the bank's name (they're engineers, not bursars), and given how quickly the account drew money from Initech, it's likely that Peter should be expecting a visit from the FDIC over his obvious attempt at embezzlement.
Vinny is licensed to practice law only in New York State. In order for him to be able to act as a lawyer in Alabama, he would either have to take the Bar Exam for Alabama, or a lawyer that can practice in Alabama would need to file a motion, and be a part of his legal team.
Judge Haller had no legitimate reason to overrule Vinny's objection to Wilbur's testimony. While he can theoretically overrule it, the verdict would've almost certainly been overturned by a higher court simply for this reason, as this shows extreme prejudice against the defendants.
Although probably staged this way for humorous effect, a real police line-up would not have people with wide discrepancies between height, weight, build and facial features. Real police line-ups are made up of the suspect(s) and a couple of volunteers who look similar to the suspect in height, weight, build, skin color, hair color and general facial features so that when an identification is made, if it is the actual suspect, they are chosen because they are truly recognized by the witness(s).
When Bill and Stan get arrested, they're under the impression that they're in jail for shoplifting until Bill figures it out during the confession. Due to the Writ of Habeas Corpus, it's nearly impossible for someone in custody to go that long without being told what he has been arrested for.
The black lady on the jury (seen when Trotter talks of "our ancestors from England") also serves Vinny in the café during the lunch recess before his presentation of evidence. If she's on the jury, she would not have been allowed to leave the court to work, and least of all to serve the defense attorney.
Near the end of the movie, Judge Haller walks out of his office, and the sign on the door says "Probate Court". A Probate Judge would never conduct a criminal trial; murder trials in Alabama (and most states) are always conducted by Circuit Judges.
Terminator Genisys: Several times, you see San Francisco Police Department investigators being referred to as "detectives". The SFPD is unique among American law enforcement for not using the rank "detective"; anyone who's ever seen Dirty Harry can tell you that they go by the title of "inspector" instead. And even then, the rank of "inspector" has more or less been phased out, with people of that rank now being designated as Sergeants.
Ghostbusters (1984): The government is not allowed to simply shut down a business's machines without any due process (i.e. a hearing in court where defendants can tell their side). If it happened, they might have explained just why shutting down their machines would be a bad idea to someone reasonable.
The Siege: A suspect is detained for carrying a large amount of currency in his luggage — but a mere $20 under the $10,000 limit. This is not illegal, and as the scene details, wouldn't work anyway; the arresting officer simply added some of his own cash to put the suspect over the limit.
Suspect: Unfortunately, the plot hinges on this (despite being accurate otherwise). The 1968 case which Elizabeth Quinn found had ended in a dismissal by the judge in return for an appointment to the court of appeals. However, an order of dismissal probably would just go in the judge's and lawyers' case files, rather than be a part of the trial transcript (especially if it was fixed) so Quinn shouldn't have been able to discover it.
There is no airport police force at Washington Dulles International Airport. Policing at Dulles is actually the responsibility of the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority and (since 2001) the TSA.
In Lorenzo's first scene, he tells John McClane, "You're the asshole that's just broke seven FAA and five District of Columbia regulations, running around my airport with a gun, shooting at people. What do you call that shit?" Washington, D.C. law would not apply to Washington Dulles International Airport, as the airport is located in Loudon County, Virginia, a full 25 miles west of Washington D.C. So the laws actually broken would be based on local ordinances, Virginia state law, or whatever is stipulated by the MWAA.
Not to mention that the entire plot only becomes possible because of everyone in the airport and the planes forgetting some FAA regulations which would have made averting the crisis a trivial effort. First, all aircraft in the air must be listening to a specific frequency dedicated for use to alert pilots to emergency situations, and second, any airfield capable of accepting an aircraft declaring a need for an emergency landing must do so. Since there are at least three other major airfields within 15 minutes flight time of Dulles, and two hours (the length of the siege in-film) flight time makes half the airports on the Eastern Seaboard reachable in a stretch, there are plenty of other airports in range that could use their transmitters to tell the circling aircraft "Dulles is compromised, land here instead". Military airports are included, since they allow civilian planes to land in an emergency there. The cockpit of a plane in the air must be listening in on an emergency broadcast frequency too (which any other airport in the area could have used to warn the planes off after Dulles' transmitter went offline).
Lorenzo accuses McClane of violating five District of Columbia regulations. Washington Dulles International Airport is actually in Loudon County, Virginia, about 25 miles west of Washington D.C. So the laws actually broken would be based on local ordinances, or whatever is stipulated by the MWAA.
Lorenzo is stated to be a Captain and wears Captain's bars on his uniform, but when he orders a mobilisation after McClane reveals the plot, he addresses himself as Chief, a distinct rank. However that may be just a case of cop parlance, as it is common for the boss in a workplace to be informally referred to as "chief" by themselves or their subordinates.
The Truman Show: The entire premise of having a show where the star spends his entire life being made into what is essentially a dancing monkey for the entertainment of others violates more laws than anyone can count.
An article sums up the situation by claiming that the universe the film takes place in must be a Crapsack World by definition, as it breaks so many laws that the only explanation is either bribery or sheer incompetence. Notably, the producers are heard repeatedly trying to force Truman to conceive a child with his in-universe wife — a Former Child Star who's publicly said to be Only in It for the Money and finally rage quits after she snaps and threatens him when his questioning becomes too much to bear.
This is also discussed in-universe several times — the film gives a Hand Wave to the improbable setup by claiming that Truman was "adopted" by the corporation that airs the program. Under most known adoption laws, this is functionally impossible, as such adoption rules generally mandate that the child be taken under the care of a single parent or family.
The entire concept of an extra (Sylvia) who is able to divulge details of the producers' antics to Truman, tipping him off that something is wrong, also highlights the absurdly-fragile legal nature of the production. While Kristof eventually has her removed (written out of) the show, she's never shown to face any financial or legal consequences for potentially destroying the façade of what is likely one of the largest-ever lifestyle productions in that universe's history (the dome alone takes up a substantial portion of real estate, equivalent to the Hollywood Hills and surrounding L.A. area). And even if Sylvia hadn't spilled the beans (a Meaningful Background Event implies that she tried to get close to other cast members to convince them to turn on Kristof), it's likely that someone else would have during the course of Truman's life.
Courts in New York in 1799 are shown as regularly using torture to extract confessions and admitting into evidence confessions extracted under torture. In 1799! Torture had been illegal throughout the English-speaking world for over a century before the American Revolution.
There's also the fact that Jonathan Masbeth was the only witness to the elder van Garrett's new will, which left everything to van Garrett's new wife Emily Winship, which sets the plot in motion. A will requires two valid witnesses for the will itself to be valid.
Sully depicts the NTSB investigation into the crash of US Airways Flight 1549 as trying to get the eponymous pilot, insisting that simulations had confirmed that he could have made it back to LaGuardia or to Teterboro or even Newark, and that simulations proved this. Only when Sullenberger insists that they add the human factor back into the simulations by adding a 35-second delay to account for the time for the pilots to diagnose the problem, assess the level of damage and remaining capability of the plane, and decide what to do, do the simulations confirm that it would not have been possible to make it to an airport. In fact, the NTSB was not out to get Sullenberger; they were the ones who added the 35-second delay into the simulations as part of the initial investigation. Conducting the simulations without the delay was just to establish the limits of what might have been possible. By all accounts, including Sullenberger's own, the NTSB investigators thought Sullenberger was a hero, thought all along that he had made the right decision, and were thrilled to get the benefit of his experience. But movies need villains, so the administrative investigation that was primarily conducted just to gain information to help prevent future crashes was turned into an exercise in persecution.
Another thing: finding that a cause of the crash was pilot error does not mean that the case is closed. Since the late 1970s, a pilot error is not considered a cause of the incident by itself; it's only a symptom of a deeper problem and, if the investigators find out the pilot is to blame, they continue the investigation to find out why he/she made an error. In many cases, pilots who caused a crash/incident because they messed something up still come out as heroes (eg. the Gimli Glider case, where the crew of a 767 miscalculated their fuel load, yet still were applauded for bringing their aircraft safely down and saving all souls onboard when the engines quit at 39000 ft). Even if Sully was found more or less guilty of the incident, the investigation would go on to find why (eg. lack of proper rest or improper training), and he would still be hailed as a hero for saving 155 people.
Also, the investigation is never done to attribute responsibility, but to expose causes. In many cases, the investigators start investigating the possibility of pilot error when other options are all ruled out.
Election Day has been moved from November to May, which would require unprecedented control over all three branches of government by the New Founding Fathers. Of course, the Purge would be even harder to implement, and they managed that, so changing Election Day is small potatoes by comparison.
The Purge was passed by Constitutional Amendment (confirmed in promotional materials, plus no other means would be legally feasible). A Constitutional Amendment can only be repealed by another Constitutional Amendment, which requires control of Congress and a 2/3 majority of State Legislatures. The President, while having some ability to get creative with interpreting the law, has absolutely no power to repeal a Constitutional Amendment via a simple executive order, and attempting to do so would be the most blatant grounds for Impeachment in the history of the Republic. Of course, it's still possible that pragmatism (e.g., the economic and social cons of the Purge having vastly exceeded its pros) and self-preservation (e.g., fear of the resistance simply continuing to exploit the Purge to kill all of its remaining supporters) will persuade enough officials to support Roan's efforts — regardless of party lines — anyway. However, as we don't know the details of the amendment, it could be the president was given the power to unilaterally make something legal or illegal. This could be indicated by the fact the NFFA can remove the exemption of top government officials from the Purge (i.e. change the law) apparently all by themselves.
Nightcrawler: The police would most likely have enough probable cause to get a warrant to search Lou's residence, but the film acts as if their hands are tied.
Carefree: Legal proceedings (or threats of them) exist to provide impetus or obstacles to the plot and bear very little reference to real-world practices. All legal matters seem to be handled on a personal basis, as Judge Travers is a friend of both Stephen and Amanda.
I Spit on Your Grave: The poster to the original film boasts that the protagonist would not be convicted by any jury in America after going through her Roaring Rampage of Revenge, because it's a Rape and Revenge scenario. This isn't true. While it varies from state to state (let alone country to country), self-defense laws explicitly say that doing violence to protect yourself only applies while the crime is being committed (and even then something like killing may only have its sentence reduced because of extenuating circumstances, not flat-out given a "get away with murder" card). Hunting down and killing your rapists in ways not unlike a Slasher Film villain would definitely put you in trouble with the law no matter what (and interestingly enough the remake's continuation (yes, it has one) showcases in a moment of Surprisingly Realistic Outcome that the moment the protagonist devolves into killing people in the middle of a metropolitan city because she believes they are rapists and have it coming, her Karma Houdini Warranty expires and she ends up being hunted down and killed by the police, like any other Serial Killer.) However, as a practical matter, a woman with no priors who claims she was raped might manage to avoid prison by (a) garnering enough sympathy from the jury to forestall a conviction, or (b) being declared insane and sent to a mental institution.
Xander's stunt at the beginning couldn't trigger the Three Strikes law, as they cannot be three felonies from the same "transaction."note Unless he already has two, but that's not what Gibbons said. Also, they would be state crimes and he wouldn't be sent to Leavenworth (a federal prison). Of course, the chief could have just been saying that to pressure him into working for him.
The NSA does not have agents in the field—they're strictly signals intelligence (phone calls, emails, that sort of thing). Non-military human intelligence is the CIA's business.
The Christmas That Almost Wasn't centers around Santa's landlord charging him exorbitant rent so that he can evict Saint Nick and shut down Christmas. Under international law, no nation owns the North Pole, so Mr. Whipple (Santa's lawyer) could have made a valid case that whoever Mr. Prune bought the North Pole from didn't have it to sell in the first place, making his status as Santa's landlord legally void.
In addition, the fact that Santa had been living there for centuries could very well grant him protection from eviction regardless of who owned the land under the right of adverse possession (squatter's rights). At a minimum, Mr. Whipple could have filed for a preliminary injunction against eviction until these legal questions were settled, which would have delayed the eviction until after Christmas regardless of how the case went.
Generally, owning a piece of property does not grant a person any rights over the possessions that a tenant living in that property might bring there. A landlord evicting a renter who fails to pay the rent can lay claim to any items left behind after the leave-by date, or possibly make an arrangement to claim some of the renter's possessions in lieu of cash, but cannot arbitrarily seize the personal possessions of the people being evicted. As such, Mr. Prune might have a claim to evict Santa if he can get through the other legal points, he would not have the right to take away the reindeer, sleigh, and whatever items Santa could load into it when moving out. On top of that, Prune exerts his questionable authority on what Santa can do with his own belongings BEFORE the rent is due.
I Shot Jesse James features a gross misrepresentation of extradition law. Once Frank James (the brother of Jesse James) is acquitted of charges in Colorado, the jail immediately lets him go, even though they acknowledge he's wanted in other states like Kansas and Missouri. In reality, the Colorado authorities wouldve alerted the other states (telegrams were widespread by 1892, so there wouldnt be a long delay) and kept Frank locked up until one of the states contacted them about extradition via the U.S. Marshals. The only reason to let him go would've been if none of the other states wanted to try him, which seems unlikely given him and his brother's notorious reputation.
Kick-Ass 2: The police "detain" all masked superheroes in New York City, but most aren't shown committing any crimes. Dave's dad even explicitly says he has to be released because of this. In reality, the cops would not do this because it could result in the city being sued for false arrest, which might cost millions. The Justice Forever members also say they're "on parole" in the funeral scene after their release, though there it may be a joke.
Gerard gets in trouble with his boss for striking a suspect in handcuffs to subdue him during the opening sequence because he was attacking the arresting Marshals, and bit one. She acts like this was a breach of protocol which he has to apologize for publicly. However, what he did was completely appropriate in those circumstances.
It's ignored here for Rule of Cool, but in real life, the FAA says that prisoners are not allowed to be chained to any part of an airplane.
Also, when the Chinese assassin asks to use the toilet the guard says to hold it and that they will be landing in 20 minutes, but in reality guards are not allowed to tell any prisoner the time frame of any transport especially when it is a federal prisoner transport.
During his speech after breaking into the talk show in a tank, Harry says that the Constitution doesn't authorize the IRS. Oh really, Harry? How about Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1: "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States"
And if that wasn't blatant enough, how about Amendment 16: "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration."
While it's true the Constitution doesn't specificially authorize an Internal Revenue Service to collect taxes, it's pretty blatant about the (nearly unlimited) taxing power it gives the Federal government, and every court in the land agrees that an agency to enforce the Federal tax laws is well within the rights of the Executive branch.
Aunt Beverly claims that the Tax Court judges are all in the hip pockets of the IRS, since it's the IRS that pays their salaries (and can hit them with severe audits if they don't toe the line the IRS wants). In Real Life, many neutral parties have criticized the Tax Courts for being too soft on tax cheats out of judicial dislike for the IRS. Also their salaries are set by the Congress and paid by the taxpayer like all federal officials, which doesn't differ in amount from other judges. Punitive audits from the IRS of judges would also get them in a lot of trouble.
Shock Corridor: The movie acts like the murderer has been nailed when Johnny beats him into a confession. In reality, that would be inadmissible in court. The only witness is also a delusional mental patient who thinks he's a little boy too most of the time. So it's likely the murderer would go free.
A Murder of Crows: The killer's family was killed by a drunk driver, who got off because police didn't read his Miranda rights correctly. However, drunk driving cases heavily involve physical evidence (breathalyzer, blood tests, etc.). It's thus very unlikely the whole case would hinge on any statement he made (which is all that Miranda applies to).
Johnny English: With respect to the (albeit unwritten) Constitution and the power of the Crown. In Real Life, you could not get the Queen to abdicate with the stroke of a pen,note it requires an Act of all Parliaments in nations where she is head of state and whilst the bit where all land in the country is technically the possession of the Crown and can be confiscated at will needs clarification,note and it would probably violate human rights law/treaties the monarch has very little actual power, which is de facto exercised by their government. It also ignores historical precedent concerning what happens to monarchs who try to exercise too much personal power. Of course all of this is (thankfully?) ignored in favor of Rule of Funny and a good story (see below).
There's also the notion that Mr. Sauvage only becomes King Pascal at the moment the crown touches his head, when actually (assuming that Elizabeth II's abdication and Pascal's claim to the throne are recognized), he would be monarch as soon as the abdication form was signed and Parliament has given consent. The coronation is just a ceremony.
Furthermore, in real life a coronation takes more than a year to organise, rather than just days as this film suggests. Also, it seems unlikely that a monarch would be allowed to quietly slip away to a castle in France so soon before getting crowned.note It is traditional for the monarch to spend the night before in the Speaker's apartment of the Palace of Westminster.
Oh, and throughout the film, various characters consistently refer to "England" rather than "Britain". In particular they talk of Sauvage being "King of England", even though that title was abolished in 1707, when the crowns of England and Scotland were unified.
In any case, even were Elizabeth to abdicate, Prince Charles would be next in line. If she were to renounce the throne for her descendants as well, the next in line would be David Armstrong-Jones, 2nd Earl of Snowden.note Son of Princess Margaret, the Queen's sister.
Demolition Man: There is no legally justified reason to put John Spartan in cryo-prison at the start of the movie. A high-school graduate could have taken the case against him apart. When a criminal engages in a violent felony, the legal culpability for any and all casualties falls squarely on the criminal, even if the casualties result entirely from the police response. Second, any punishment that John Spartan would have faced would only result if John Spartan acted with gross negligence, and that is clearly not the case. He had no way of knowing that the hostages were even still in the building, since a heat scan turned up only the gang. It turns out they were already dead, something an autopsy likely could have established. There's also the implication that the more "by the book" cops are just that sick of Spartan, which opens a whole other can of worms.
It would be next-to-impossible to prove that Rebecca intentionally screwed the guy to death, something cited by numerous people in the film, and reflected in her acquittal. Even arresting her would be highly unlikely.
During the trial, when she reveals that she caught her ex in bed with another man, he simply stands up and nods to confirm her story. That would never happen in Real Life. He'd be called back to the stand to testify again.
Rebecca testifies, when even the worst defense attorney knows that having a defendant testifying is a bad idea. That said, Frank and the judge explicitly warn her against this, as they're obligated to do.
Mixed Nuts: In reality, the cops probably would not just let Gracie off once they discover her victim was really the Seaside Strangler. While they might be glad he's gone, further investigation likely would take place, and she could be charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, etc. Of course, a jury might still be sympathetic regardless, or they could cut her a deal.
i am sam: In reality it's unlikely Sam would lose custody entirely, since he is neither abusing or neglecting Lucy, though he might be required to have supervision from a social worker. Also these proceedings are generally much more informal. The state attorney verbally attacking Sam on the stand is also inappropriate and a judge likely would not permit it, particularly given his mental disability (it's akin to him dressing down a child).
Watchmen: Like in the original comic book, Rorschach was sent to Sing Sing before even being tried for his crimes, while in reality he would be held at Riker's Island until trial. He also would likely be kept isolated from other inmates as a notorious vigilante crime fighter, which is not only for his protection but to avoid an incident like in the cafeteria.
Resurrection (1999): When one of the detectives recites the Miranda warning, he says the ending wrong to express anger at the killer. Understandable, but it would invalidate anything he said after that. Also, the killer is arraigned on a charge of impersonating a federal agent in the Cook County courthouse, with the district attorney involved, and he's held in Chicago Police custody before he makes bail. However, this a federal crime, and he would be arraigned in the US District Courthouse, with the US Attorney's Office prosecuting, and held in federal custody.
God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness: The film acknowledges that there's no basis for subpoenaing sermons, as Dave is quickly released after the order's ruled unconstitutional. However, it's never explained just why they were subpoenaed in the first place-you need a reason for this. Further, although eminent domain can be used on a church, there is no way they could obtain a demolition order on the property before it was actually confiscated. If this had gone through, the university would have had huge liability. There's no evidence for Adam's arrest either-anonymous accusations or mere suspicion won't cut it. Without that to begin with, even a later confession by him wouldn't be admissible. Assuming they had evidence though, it wouldn't be under Dave's control whether the charges got dropped-that is a decision for the prosecutor. Given that a man died, it's also very unlikely they would if a case existed (Adam could be facing Felony Murder, or at least manslaughter).
The Man from Earth: Will repeatedly threatens to have John involuntarily committed for a psychiatric evaluation if he doesn't admit he's making the whole story up. He'd have a lot of trouble convincing a judge to sign an order for involuntary commitment based on being told a story he doesn't like. John hasn't threatened anyone, committed any acts of violence, displayed any symptoms of mental illness, John isn't his patient, and he doesn't have any valid reason for having John committed. All John would have to do is look at the judge and say it was just a story, and it probably wouldn't even get to that point. Basically, Will is an asshole.
Fargo: Since it involved the death of a state trooper, the Minnesota State Police should have been investigating the murders.note Though the State Police do get involved, as it's implied Marge and Lou are simply first responders though they're mostly out of the picture until the later half of the film.
Nine Lives: Executives can't be summarily fired, since their employment is under contract and they will have clauses that restrict this. A majority shareholder also can't do things which damage the minority shareholders' stake in the company, as continuing the tower construction would.
Grosse Pointe Blank: The NSA does not have field agents. Also, they're not even supposed to do anything domestically. Their job is to monitor foreign communications. FBI agents would be the ones after hitmen like Martin here.
The premise of the comedy Serving Sara is that Sara will be massively disadvantaged if her soon-to-be-ex-husband Gordon manages to initiate their divorce in Texas, as opposed to her having it heard in New York. While it would take an actual lawyer to evaluate which state's law would be more beneficial to her in this specific instance, the movie's assertion that Texas divorce laws were written by "good old boys" to screw over ex-wives isn't true. Texas is a community property state, giving Sara automatic ownership of half the property accumulated during the marriage - there's a very good chance that she'd be better off there.
Dark Phoenix: Magneto's right-the US military can't simply come into Genosha without permission. If it's in the US, they're forbidden to carry out police functions by the Posse Comitatus Act, plus they would need a search warrant. Assuming it's not (though the land was "given to them by the US government", which makes it unclear) this would be a violation of their sovereignty that could be taken as an act of war.
Beyond Re-Animator: A prison warden does not have the ability to increase an inmate's sentence.
The Wicker Man (2006): Malus is operating outside of his jurisdiction, as he is a member of the California Highway Patrol and Summersisle is just a short distance away from Seattle.
Eye for an Eye: The undercover agent who threatens Karen with life in prison if she kills Doob. In reality, Karen would probably get off completely or lightly, courtesy of an endless range of potential jurors — and even some law enforcement — who'd sympathize with her. Justified as the agent is attempting to intimidate her into giving up the idea and correctly states the punishment, rather than likelihood of it actually happening.
My Days of Mercy: The first prisoner executed (who killed Mercy's dad's partner) is said to have been mentally disabled. However, the US Supreme Court has ruled that such prisoners cannot be executed.
Crime of the Age: In real life, the theft of a single, ordinary book, even during a break-in, would probably not warrant a full investigation by a detective, let alone a forensic investigation. However, the actual purpose of this seems to be figuring out which of the suspects is not a Christian, which is not only less needful of a detective, but not even illegal (it might be justifiable if he were a private investigator).
A Simple Favor: In reality, Emily almost definitely would get life without parole if she had been convicted of two premeditated murders plus attempted murder, not simply twenty years.
Day of Defense: Everything about the Mormon elders' prosecution is completely illegal, grossly violating the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The film at first treats it like the Christian Town Council (CTC) is just illegally running missionaries from religions they don't approve of out, which is plausible. However, when no one brings up that fact (including the Mormon defendants and judge who's semi-sympathetic to them) it beggars belief. In reality, if a town's government did this in the US, they would be quickly sued and possibly federally prosecuted. The kind of laws that it portrays were abolished in the early 1800s. A lot of the film reviews note this. There are also some courtroom antics and other common tropes, but that's fairly standard in films with court scenes.
Minority Report: There's no mention of the US Constitution having changed to allow precrime arrests and detentions. However, while it was authorized in Washington D.C. and a proposal for extending this further is scheduled to be voted on during the film, a constitutional amendment indeed would be necessary. Otherwise, arresting a person for something they have not yet done, let alone detaining the person afterward indefinitely, would be completely unconstitutional. This would also be necessary to have the precogs, who are slaves (even if not called by the name) and mass surveillance/searches which we see (the film does at least hang a lampshade on the constitutionality or lack thereof of precrime arrests: there's a brief reference to the ACLU making trouble for the D.C. pilot program, and the process is overseen by a pair of judges).
Rampage (2009): In one of his political rants, Bill claims that firearms purchases do not mandate background checks, and cites this as proof of the gun industry's greed making mass murderers such as himself possible. In truth, this gets complicated. Licensed firearms businesses (where, obviously, the overwhelming majority of gun sales take place) or "FFLs" are obligated under federal law to perform background checks on ALL their customers. No matter the location—there is no such thing as an internet or gun show "loophole" for any lawful purchase. Private purchases, where one person might decide to sell a gun to one of their friends living in the same state, do not. If it's across state lines, an FFL will have to act as a middle-man. Calls for "universal background checks" effectively just amounts to taxing non-business individuals who probably cannot afford such a burden, in addition to possibly trespassing on privacy rights. In other words, Bill's statement is technically (kind of) correct, but highly misleading.
Gold Through the Fire: The film claims US law bars any preaching or even expressing religious beliefs in public schools, with Peter being disciplined for this. However, that isn't the case. Only the teachers are forbidden to do this. The students are free to, provided this doesn't rise to disruption or harassment. While of course violations such as the film shows occur, this isn't in compliance with the law: the case thus wouldn't set a precedent as is portrayed. It's also stated separation of church and state isn't from the Founding Fathers or a legitimate part of the law. Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father, in fact coined it, and it's also been a well-established legal doctrine for years, very often because Christians brought cases over things such as being taught a version of the Bible or doctrines they disagreed with by a public school, not just anti-religious people (unlike what the film implies).
Chris-R is never actually arrested, yet Johnny and Mark "take him to jail" in about four minutes.
Johnny apparently gets to keep Chris-R's gun after he gets carted off to jail, eventually using it to commit suicide. Nobody ever considers that it's an important piece of evidence that the police might want to take a look at.note They're actually different models of guns: The original script had Johnny own a piece himself unrelated to Chris-R's gun, but it was changed to tie the stories together more.
Dan's defense of the display of religious Christmas imagery on the town's public property just consists of him saying that "It has been done for years and nobody has complained before". The breaking of the law is never justified by the fact that others have been doing it before, just never being caught.
At the end of the film, upon realizing the error of his ways, Mitch drops his lawsuit. Even if this was the case there's still the fact that the town was found in breach of the law.
Spider-Man: Homecoming: The inciting incident where the U.S. government takes over the salvage operations from a local contractor would not typically result in the ruination of Adrian Toomes, the local contractor. Early termination is a standard part of contracts that specifies who owes whom what in the event one party or another wishes to terminate the contract. In this case the Feds would force the City of New York to terminate their salvage operations, activating the early termination clauses with the contractors. This is typically a large payout that covers the cost of purchasing or leasing equipment and hiring employees (two items that Toomes explicitly mentions). Operating without protection from early termination is incredibly risky and unlikely to be undertaken by any sort of established businessman. In fact, Damage Control voiding Toomes' legal city contract without compensating him is highly illegal. In any situation like this, the government has a duty to compensate businesses for what is essentially seizure of eminent domain, and given the stakes involved, a salvage company operating on a city contract in New York City (the most contested real-estate market in the world), Toomes had more than enough to sue for a big fat check from the government. In addition, contract terminations of this sort generally require some sort of official process, which would by rights result in Toomes being informed that the awarding of the salvage contract to Damage Control was being challenged and granting him a hearing in which he could defend his company's suitability to handle the job before it was taken away.
The Assignment (2016): Dr. Rachel Jane is said to have been ruled incompetent to stand trial, so she's put into a mental institution instead, where a psychiatrist evaluates her to see if she's become competent (he decides she's not after attacking him). We see no indication she would be incompetent though, which simply means that they are able to understand the proceedings and aid in their defense. Jane is quite intelligent, so there's every indication she could do both of those things. Being ruled incompetent usually requires that a defendant be severely mentally impaired from disability, a mental illness, brain damage or senility.
STEM tells Grey the evidence he's gathered (a tattoo identifying one of the men at the scene when his wife was killed) isn't enough for a conviction. However, that's likely untrue, since it shows he was involved, and even if not the trigger man could get him convicted of felony murder. Plus, it could lead the police to more evidence (and the other criminals involved). Of course, STEM turns out to be lying about everything, and so this was probably deliberation manipulation so Grey wouldn't just call the police in.
Cortez may have survived if she'd followed standard procedures and called for backup instead of facing Eron and Grey alone. Unless the two mooks Grey shoots on his way in are actually cops, but if so they failed to announce themselves as such.
Lyla's father presumably paid a lawyer a large sum of money in order to forge Lyla's signature on the adoption paperwork, but for a lawyer to go along with this plan would be highly unethical and could get them disbarred (not that such a thing is unknown, it just would be less likely).
It's unlikely that Evan, a healthy newborn, would be placed in a group home.
Holmes & Watson: Moriarty's trial resembles nothing that has ever happened in a British courtroom. The judge wielding a gavel is just the beginning of the problems. Later, Dr. Watson is arrested and then sentenced to hang without any trial occurring in between.
Death Wish (2018): Due to the Firearm Owners Protection Act, passed in 1986, it would have been very difficult and expensive for Kersey to legally obtain a fully automatic rifle.
Abduction: Nathan's birth certificate says "State of Pennsylvania", but Pennsylvania is a Commonwealth. Also, Nathan rides around on his motorcycle without a helmet - but PA laws say you must wear one until you are 21 years of age. Looking that young, he would be stopped for sure.
Charlie's Angels (2019): Brok's corporate security forces in his Hamburg facility carry handguns. Given Germany's very restrictive gun laws, it's unlikely that a privately owned company like his would've been given permission to arm its personnel in real life.
Tango & Cash: The protagonists are prosecuted on a charge of murdering an undercover FBI agent, a federal crime. However, it was explicitly done by the LA county District Attorney, who only has jurisdiction over state crimes. Later though it's said they're sent to a federal prison.
At one point Dixon beats Red to a pulp and throws him out of a second story window in front of a street full of witnesses, including the new chief of police. His only punishment is getting fired instead of, you know, being immediately arrested for assault and attempted murder.
When the new chief walks in and introduces himself to the assembled Ebbing Police, the desk sergeant asks him to prove who he is. The chief acts like this an absurd request and doesn't even bother to show them his badge. Somewhat justified in that he had just seen Dixon violently assault two people, and wasn't particularly impressed with the other cops, who were actively ignoring it.
Dr. Staple leads the police to the Overseer and the Horde, has them stunned unconscious and dragged off to an insane asylum under her care with absolutely no trial or lawyers or any due process, and not even the Overseer's son (who, granted, might be worried about being labeled an accomplice) seeks any legal recourse other than going to the doctor and pleading her to let his dad go. Granted, the existence of the Shamrock conspiracy might help explain this, as any judges or lawyers might be in on it, but given that "David Dunn" is a local hero even outside his secret identity and nobody seems to even think about the plainly criminal lengths Dr. Staple went to capture and detain him, it still fits this trope.
Her decision to give Mr. Glass a lobotomy is completely unethical and illegal as well, but again the Shamrock conspiracy would mean that legality wasn't high on her list of priorities; the bigger issue is that nobody else, including the seemingly ignorant staff at the hospital, call her out on this.
The Eiger Sanction: Hemlock says the germ warfare formula is against the Geneva Convention, which covers the treatment of prisoners of war. Presumably he's referring to the 1925 Geneva Protocol, but that only bans the use of such weapons in warfare, not their development or stockpiling.
The Hitman: It would not be legal for a police officer to work undercover as a contract killer, no matter how much of a Cowboy Cop he may be.
The Limehouse Golem: Lizzie is sentenced to hang the every next day after she's convicted, necessitating then that Kildare race to get her pardoned. However, hangings could not be carried out until three weeks had passed, giving the defendant time to appeal (although this rarely worked).
Hammerschmidt is implied to be either a civil rights lawyer or at the very least have some knowledge of the law, but his accusations against Bob are ridiculously flimsy, and are limited to very broad claims like "breaking the law" or "violating the Constitution", without ever mentioning any specific law, article or amendment.
Bob, who is also the Mayor of his town, is stated to have been "fired by the city council" following Hammerschmidt's revelation of his wartime snafu. In real life, there is no such thing. Being elected officials, Mayors can only be removed via impeachment or a recall election.
The church community center's cross got taken down sometime prior to the film's present-day events because "it offended somebody," when in reality, no such incident would occur due to being an obvious violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
The film claims that government property is not allowed to put up Christmas decorations (not even secular Christmas lights) because they're public property. In actuality, however, many cities both big and small put on Christmas decorations even including Nativity scenes. In fact as Cinematic Excrement pointed out, this includes the city of San Jose, a major metropolitan city located in the San Francisco Bay Area region of northern California, which is one of the most stereotypically liberal states/regions one could possibly think of. The caveat is simply they have to allow for non-Christian displays too if someone wants them.
Peppermint: Let's just say that the hearing Riley takes place in where her family's killers get off bears absolutely zero resemblance to how an actual hearing would go. But without it we wouldn't have a plot. It's also somewhat justified as the judge is in their pocket. It's also implied that the prosecutor is too, along with the police, or are at least afraid of opposing the cartel.
Adam's Rib: The judge makes Lance Ito look like a stern model of jurisprudence, with his decision to tolerate Amanda's ridiculous defense of calling in random women to demonstrate how women are equal to men. It's also not very likely that married couples would be allowed to represent opposite sides of a criminal case. Further, pointing out the hypocrisy regarding men getting off for shooting their cheating wives vs the opposite not being true, while a valid point, is not really a defense to attempted murder. Her client did it, even if sympathetic, and she's essentially trying to get jury nullification. This isn't allowed to argue for.
Captain America: Civil War: In real life, the Sokovia Accords could only apply to the American Avengers if constitutional law doesn't exist. The Accords apparently grants the United Nations the authority to arrest American citizens while violating their constitutional rights to due process, an attorney, and trial by jury. This doesn't make sense, since the Accords are a treaty that would have no legal impact on United States citizens unless Congress passed a law to fully ratify it. Even if Congress passed such a law (which is a big if, given the hyperpartisan nature of US politics), it would likely be overturned by the US Supreme Court for violating the (aforementioned) legal rights of American citizens protected by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments (at least). That's a small sampling of the problems with the Accords.
Gothika: The end of the film shows that both Miranda and Chloe are free, despite Chloe murdering her stepfather and Miranda murdering her husband and the local police chief. Even if their targets were assholes, the courts really frown on vigilante justice.
Lilly's gown during the party scene would be inappropriate for a female Secret Service agent, as it would prevent her from performing her duties should there be an attempt on the President's life. In those situations female agents instead wear dress pants and more practical shoes. (With the gown, there is also the problem of where to hide the service weapon.)
In the scene where the Secret Service counter-snipers attempt to get a sight on Leary, it is reported that it is too dark for them to see inside the elevator. In modern times (and certainly in the year the movie was released in and is set), Secret Service counter-snipers are equipped with night-vision goggles to allow them to see targets through darkness.
Also, in the climatic scene where Leary is getting ready to shoot the President and Horrigan has figured out he's in the room, there's a drawn-out scene where Horrigan is trying to figure out what table he's at in order to apprehend him before he shoots the President. In reality, a scenario where there's a gunman in the area but their identity and location are unknown is something the Secret Service trains for. Upon entering the room, Horrigan would have yelled out the code phrase for this scenario, whereupon all the agents would have swarmed the President to shield him with their bodies while the rest ordered everyone to hit the floor.
In the same scene, after Leary assembles and loads his gun, he holds it in his hand with a napkin draped over it for concealment, then stands up to shake the President's hand. No one is allowed to approach or be near the President with their hands concealed. Period. As soon as he stood up, the Secret Service would have had their eyes on him. Seeing that he had his hands concealed would have meant at least two agents would be immediately in his face, hands on their pistols and ordering him to show his hands right now.
There's also no way Watts would have dismissed Frank telling him point blank that the very assassin who's been stalking the President for weeks is present, no matter what personal or professional animosity there was.
In the Bedroom: The prosecutor tells Matt and Ruth that because Natalie did not explicitly see Richard shoot Frank, he'll only get charged with manslaughter, nor murder, and serve five to ten years at most. This is pretty ridiculous, as she'd seen plenty, like Richard breaking in, then having the murder weapon right in his hand with Frank dead on the ground. People have been convicted of murder without an eyewitness many times, or even a body sometimes-this would be far more than enough to prove the case along with his clear motive. Unless there was some problem with her testimony or the forensic evidence from the gun (none's mentioned) this would be open and shut. He might still have a plea deal, but it would likely be to second degree murder, with a much longer sentence than is mentioned. Instead, this inspires Matt to go vigilante on Richard so he won't get off so easily, which ends in Richard's murder.
Prisoners: Loki not working with a partner and walking into dangerous situations without calling for backup first is not in line with actual police procedure. But it does make for good drama.
In real life, even if a criminal escapes to another state the police can just call that state's police and get them to arrest them. And since Diana's crimes (identity theft and wire fraud) are federal it should be a job for the FBI anyway.
Sandy would also have a pretty easy wrongful dismissal claim against his employer if they truly let him go because of a police mix-up.
Shot Caller: While Jacob might have been given a 16-month sentence for what he did, it is extremely implausible for somebody with his profile (stockbroker, family man, and first-time offender with a DUI manslaughter conviction) to get immediately placed in a maximum-security prison like the one Jacob goes to. He might even get probation or a suspended sentence, especially as he'd be able to get a good defense lawyer. Even if sentenced to prison, this would almost certainly be minimum or medium security, and he'd only get in maximum for breaking rules. Then there would be no plot of course, but they could have had a more plausible scenario for this.
Most Wanted: US Army General Woodward takes over the investigation into the murder of the First Lady by the President's order. No one mentions the Posse Comitatus Act that prevents the military from law enforcement absent exceptions that don't apply here, and the LAPD meekly complies in this (when real life civilian/state police would be up in arms if this happened). Interestingly, it was accurate until then with showing that the murder is under LAPD jurisdiction, since "First Lady" isn't a federal position, just the honorary title a President's wife is given and so the crime is covered by California state law (whereas murdering federal officials is covered by the US Code).